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Microsoft's Chief Environmental Officer reveals why he thinks the world of AI for Earth

Posted by George Freund on July 3, 2019 at 2:20 PM

‘We need to do some radical things and we need to do them now’

By Andy Trotman

On October 8 last year, the United Nations published a report that called for global warming to be limited to 1.5 degrees centigrade over the next 12 years. Failure to do so will significantly worsen the risk of drought, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people, scientists warned.

The research made for grim reading and laid bare the challenge that mankind faces in creating a healthy and thriving planet that future generations can live on.

Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer and the man behind the company’s $50m AI for Earth programme, is honestly blunt when asked about the UN’s findings during a visit to London recently.

“There are two conclusions you can take from the report,” he says. “One is we are finished; but I’m not a fatalist, so I try not to take that route. If you reject that conclusion, which I hope human society does, you are left with only one other – we need to do some pretty radical things, and we need to do them now.”

Three weeks later, the WWF published a report stating that global wildlife populations have fallen 60% since 1970.

Decades of climate change, pollution and the overuse of natural resources led the conservation organisation to conclude that “the variety of life on Earth and wildlife populations is disappearing fast”. From a financial perspective, economic losses in the US alone from extreme weather and the health costs of air pollution will hit $360 billion annually in the coming decade, according to a report by the Universal Ecological Fund.

Those are big statements. The even bigger question is who can solve what many consider to be the greatest crisis the world has ever faced?

“It requires everybody to lean in, and some will have to play almost disproportionate roles,” Joppa says. “Governments need to do their part and every person has to do their bit. But the tech space has a major role to play in deploying technologies, human resources and expertise. We have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in.”

With an announcement of a bolder ambition from Microsoft President Brad Smith, calling for a tech-first approach to sustainability and the embedding of sustainability as a core value across all business units, it’s clear that Joppa is far from alone in that belief at Microsoft.

Even if you somehow manage to brush off the potentially catastrophic UN and WWF reports, you can’t ignore Joppa’s first-hand experience and knowledge in the environment sector. He holds a degree in Wildlife Ecology and Zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison – close to where he grew up – and a PhD in Ecology from Duke University; he’s advised the UN, been a member of the Science Advisory Board at Natural England, is an Honorary Conservation Fellow at the Zoological Society of London, and has sat on numerous boards, including the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment in the United States. He also spent time in Malawi, volunteering with the US Peace Corps.

Joppa joined Microsoft in 2009 as a Computation Ecologist, based at the company’s Research Lab in Cambridge. Five years later he moved to Microsoft’s global headquarters in Redmond, in the US, and took on his current role in July after creating the AI for Earth initiative that was launched by Brad Smith, company President, last year. It’s a new position for him, and Microsoft, which shows how seriously the company is taking the issue of climate change.

There are two conclusions you can take from the report. One is we are finished; but I’m not a fatalist, so I try not to take that route. If you reject that conclusion, which I hope human society does, you are left with only one other – we need to do some pretty radical things, and we need to do them now.


Brilliant war propaganda. The tech companies are Quislings for the AI beast as described by scripture. They are seeding the invader around the world under the guise of saving the planet when, in effect, they are capturing it as the AI robots have said. Carbon based life will eliminated in their quest as the radical things usually imply to those foolish enough to believe these lies. However, all through history these types of deception were used to great effect. They need species disarmament, loss of rights to combat they're created terrorists, and deeply seated alien technology to finish us off. 

Categories: New World Order, Economy, Agenda21